Anything I’m Fermenting

June 30, 2010

Lauku Alus, part 2

Filed under: Beer,Brewing — iwouldntlivethere @ 5:24 pm
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Looks like I’ll be making this beer again – for both good and bad reasons. (more…)

March 12, 2009

Absolutely! Dry Beer.

Filed under: Brewing — iwouldntlivethere @ 6:41 pm
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Rather than respond to Sjoerd’s question in the comments, I think it is worth discussing it in it’s own blog post.

Here’s the question (I’ve edited it a bit to summarize):

I wonder if it is possible to create an absolutely dry beer, by first doing the alpha-step on 73 degrees, and then adding beta-amylase enzymes and continue mashing at 60 degrees. I remember reading that enzymes reside in the liquid parts for the most. Most of the starch, however, resides in the non-liquid parts. (more…)

March 10, 2009

Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 8 (finally!)


So I’ve been otherwise engaged for the last few months. Sorry. Maybe this will make Sjoerd happy? The cliffhanger I’ve left you with was how will I make the Champagne of Beers ‘dry’? Actually, the cliffhanger is more like how did the beer turn out!

In regards to the dryness, I aimed to ensure a complete conversion of starches to simple sugars (as far as possible) by regulating the temperature. I started relatively low (around 63 C) and stayed there for 30 minutes. Then raised the heat to 67 C for another 30 minutes, finally I brought it up to 70 C for 30 minutes. The first step is ideal for beta-amylases, so they get to make a lot of simple sugars. Unfortunately, they leave behind a lot of starch because they are stumped by branches on the starch molecules. So the rest at 67 C (the typical homebrew saccharification rest) tried to get the alpha-amylase into the action to break apart the big starches into smaller ones – but still allow the beta-amylase to continue its work chewing up the starch into simple sugars at the new end-points of the starch molecules created by the alpha-amylases’s snips. The final rest, at 70 C is to get the alpha-amylase into its happy place. Unfortunely, this is hot enough to cook the beta-amylase, but my hope was that it would have finished its work by now. However, the alpha-amylase could still snip apart ‘branch-limit dextrines’ and other complex sugars in to smaller, hopefully simpler ones, that the yeast could then tear into (and so drying out the beer).

The other contributor to dryness in the Champagne of Beers is all the cane sugar I added to it. This is a bit counter-intuitive (isn’t sugar sweet, which is not dry?). Being completely composed of a simple sugar, the yeast can convert all of it into alcohol. So no worries about sweetness. In addition, by relying on cane sugar for a substantial part of the extract in this recipe, the proportion of complex, unfermentable sugar is correspondingly lower. Further, I believe that the taste of alcohol itself balances sweetness, so the added alcohol content in this beer also will make it taste dryer.

The yeast for this beer ( Wyeast’s 1388 Belgian Strong Ale yeast) is also known for finishing dry – one of the considerations in choosing it.

Finally, I have been fermenting it a long time in secondary – several months now. With hope, the yeast will have become desperate enough to try eating any sugars in the beer. This may take some time to be noticable, because the activity level of the yeast is so low, but that’s why this long period is partly for.

November 6, 2008

Making the ‘Champage of Beers’

(My earlier poll for what to write about is currently tied 0-0-0-0-0, so I feel free to write what I want)

Next summer is my ‘champagne birthday’ – where the age I’m turning is the same as the day of the month on which my birthday falls. The only problem is that I don’t really like champagne / sparkling wine. It’s better than still wine, and I can drink it, but I don’t truly enjoy it – especially for more than a glass or two.

SO, I’ve decided to try brewing a beer with characteristics similar to champagne:

1. Very light colour

2. Fizzy, but without much head

3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv (yes, I know it can be stronger)

4. Noticable acidity

5. Light body

6. Clear – minimal cloudiness

7. Low bitterness and no hop flavour or aroma

8. Fruitiness

9. Dry (i.e. not sweet)

My next few posts will be my thoughts on how to achieve these objectives:

1. Very light colour. This isn’t too hard; I will only use base malt (2-row barley malt), uncoloured sugar, and rice (minimal colour) as an adjunct. The colour from this should be around 2 SRM.

2. Fizzy, but without much head. A bit more involved. I will try a protein rest during mashing at 50 degrees for 30 minutes (see This should break down the protiens that usually cause big heads (foam) on beer when it is poured. This has the added ‘benefit’ of reducing the body of the beer, making it feel more watery (see Characteristic #5).

Another aspect to this will be the use of aged hops for bittering. Hops usually provide chemicals that link with  protiens in beer to promote head retention (see Aging removes a lot of this power. Using aged hops has the added ‘benefit’ of reducing hop flavours and aroma (see Characteristic #7). One downside is that certain hops (esp. US grown Cascades and related hops) can impart a strong citrusy aroma to beer, so using aged hops works against this – which would have helped with Characteristic #9.

Fizz-wise, I think that regular bottle conditioning (together with the lack of body and foam) should be sufficient carbonation.

July 15, 2008

BIAB / Brewing Update

Filed under: Beer,Brewing — iwouldntlivethere @ 7:13 pm
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Thanks PistolPatch for the tip about doughing in! (“You will find it easier to add your water to your kettle first, … add your bag and THEN pour your grain in. You’ll have no doughballs this way and no heavy stirring to do either.”)

I’ll post some pictures soon of my new 5-gallon batches (the photos in the earlier post are of my 3-gallon system). About the tip, I’m not sure why, but I still got dough-balls using your method. I ended up having to very slowly pour in the grist, while constantly stirring, to prevent them. Perhaps I have a finer grind, and the substantial amounts of flour make dough-balls an inevitability. On balance, I think this was easier than adding the water to the grist though, so I will continue to do it this way.

Changing gears, I want to quickly describe an experience I’ve gone through home-brewing, hopefully it will add to the general level of knowledge about homebrewing (i.e. others avoid my mistakes!).

I live in Toronto, and rather bizzarely for a large city with an active beer culture, there are no home-brew shops. There are one or two brew-on-premises places that sometimes sell a bit of extra grain or hops, and maybe a place way out in the hinterlands of Brampton (not an great option for the car-less, or car owners for that matter – it is a substantial trip of unproven utility). But otherwise homebrewers are limited to mail-order, or banding together to buy wholesale via a very helpful local microbrewery.

In short, getting malt is a real hassle. To stretch my malt, I use whole wheat flour as an adjunct – usually equal in wieght to about 1/3 of my base malt. As well, I found an Italian coffee substitute called Orzo that is simply roasted barley (kind of like black patent?), and a Korean ‘tea’ made from lightly roasted barley grain (SRM of around 65?). Unfortunately, I ran out of Orzo, and kept forgetting to go up to Corso Italia on St. Clair Ave to buy some more – realizing this only after I had already started a brew session. So in a pinch I just used ground coffee. Yup, just dumped about 100 g of it into my mash.

The results? Well, regular roast coffee has less darkening power than I would have thought – maybe around 250 or 300. And I believe it adds an acrid taste to the finished beer. Perhaps if I had added brewed coffee, rather than the actual grounds, I could have avoided this – but that would have involve a bunch of new variables, so I never did that (not realizing that it would end up tasting weird). The other unknown is the flavour effect of the Korean tea barley. I made a little trial batch with a bit of pale malt and the tea barley – didn’t taste great, but I did end up boiling off most of the water, and had to keep adding more to maintain a boil.

In the end, I was able to get a selection of malts including Carafa from Justin. So in my last batch I did not use either coffee or the tea barley – I may never know which the acrid taste actually came from.

May 7, 2008

Brew-in-a-Bag (BIAB)

Filed under: Beer,Brewing,Pictures — iwouldntlivethere @ 8:46 pm
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As I said in the first post about National Homebrew day, my brewing method is based on the BIAB method described by ‘Thirsty Boy’ on the Brewing Network’s forums. I have put together a few shots of my brewing day, just to compare to Justin’s more normal home-brewing set up. Please note that Justin brews 10 gallons per batch, compared to my 3.3 gallons – it may be difficult to scale the BIAB method much above 5 gallons, or so I hear.

The usual procedure in home brewing is to gently mill your grain – taking care to crush the grain rather than grind it, as the husks should be kept as entire as possible. These are put into a mash tun – usually some sort of picnic cooler with a manifold of one type or another at the bottom to allow drainage of the mash. Water is heated in the brew kettle to a strike temperature considerably above the mash temperature – it will decline when mixed with the milled grain. The mash is allowed to rest for about an hour. The mash mixture is then drained – the first runnings are ‘recirculated’ back into the tun, to ensure clear wort. Additional hot water is poured into the mash tun to ‘sparge’ the grain – wash out remaining sugars. This wort is then boiled with hops, and fermented.

In contrast, here is the method I use:

National Homebrew Day – Not.

Filed under: Beer,Brewing,Pictures — iwouldntlivethere @ 4:11 am
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It ended up raining all day on Saturday. As a result (and due to a problem of too many brewers spoiling the brew in the SOBs – ask Justin) Justin and I decided not to go up to Newmarket, but stay at his place and brew his championship near-double IPA. Good times, good brews, good burgers.

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